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Ann - Interview 65

Age at interview: 40
Age at diagnosis: 33
Brief Outline: Ann was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia after various symptoms including recurrent infections. She was treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and an allogenic bone marrow transplant. She is in remission.
Background: Ann is a civil servant. She is divorced with no children. Ethnic Background: White British.

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After experiencing a variety of symptoms including persistent infections and a boil on her leg, Ann had a bad bout of tonsillitis which recurred a few weeks later along with problems with her ears and feelings of lethargy. She also experienced a rigor (shaking due to high fever). The GP prescribed antibiotics and took a blood sample. Later the same day she was admitted to hospital where she had a bone marrow biopsy, which showed she had acute myeloid leukaemia. She was told her disease was treatable but she should expect six months of disruption to her life.
 
Ann had a Hickman line inserted and was given oral and intravenous chemotherapy. Although this made her feel hung over and caused hair loss it failed to put her in remission. She was then given a stronger chemotherapy and offered a bone marrow transplant from a donor. Having recently married she was reluctant to have this procedure and asked for a second opinion as to whether it was really necessary. She eventually decided to have the transplant and was prepared for it with high dose chemotherapy and total body irradiation, which made her very sick.
 
After the transplant Ann caught chicken pox/shingles and developed graft versus host disease (GVHD), which caused a skin rash all over her body. Other, lasting effects of treatment were an underactive thyroid, under functioning kidneys, an acidic gut, cataracts in her eyes, and an early menopause.
 
In total Ann was absent from work for eighteen months. After she had been discharged from hospital and was starting to feel better her marriage broke down. Although she is in remission she takes a variety of medications including something for her kidneys, a thyroid hormone replacement, antibiotics, an antacid and HRT.

 

 

Ann says that in hindsight her husband didn’t cope well with her leukaemia; he left her just as...

Ann says that in hindsight her husband didn’t cope well with her leukaemia; he left her just as...

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How did your husband cope with all of this?
 
In hindsight he didn’t. At the time when it was all happening I think he was as dumbstruck as I was. But I think long-term I don’t think he coped with it. 
 
And at what stage did your relationship break down?
 
Funnily enough as everything was getting all right. As everything started to be okay, and I still get very, very tired now, I’m sort of, I’m seven years post-transplant but, and when I tell them at the hospital it’s, ‘What do you expect?’, and that’s all I get. But saying that, I do my best to keep as fit as I possibly can. But it did, it broke down, it literally broke down as things were getting better.
 
Why do you think that is?
 
I don’t know. I honestly cannot say, apart from, if you like, how the marriage broke up and what the final straw was. But I just felt that he’d, he didn’t, I don’t think he ever, I think he thought that, when I used to come out of the hospital after my treatment I was fine, and I think he expected that when I came out of hospital following my transplant that I would be in the same picture of health, if you like, and I wasn’t. And it took a good two years for me to be anything like normal, if you like. Also, losing the hair didn’t do me a lot of good, losing a vast amount of weight didn’t do me a lot of good, plus putting the weight back on. That’s the part of it that I found hard to deal with, if you like, but what did it matter? There’s always a wig. Do you know what I mean?
 
I mean I don’t make any bones about the fact that it was my husband that broke up the relationship, but it was at the point where everything was getting better that it broke up. 
 
And what about the infertility issue? Was that a part of the problem with your marriage?
 
I would say that it was and it wasn’t. It was a case, I think you’ve got to, I tried to rationalise it, how can I put it? I did try and rationalise that, you know, the possibility was I might not have been here, so what is the point of having a child if it can’t have a mother? And that was the way that I’ve I had to think, and just do it that way, and I suppose in any marriage a child is a blessing anyway and it’s an add-on, if you like. You know, it’s something that you don’t necessarily expect, but when you are getting married you do expect that you’re going to have a child if you want children. But, you know, there was other things open to us at the time, like adoption, whatever, but we just never got round to doing things like that, and possibly on my own I don’t know whether I could cope with a child, to be honest, so… 
 
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